overlap dancing

The Paula Abdul Greatest Hits collection contains most of the single versions that helped enable the modest pop music renaissance of the early 1990s in a sleek package that is a pleasure to indulge in, if sometimes a guilty one.

Greatest Hits is not forthcoming in retracing Paula's history. Her first two singles, “Knocked Out” and “The Way That You Love Me” met with a moderate at best reception even though they were the strongest of the tracks that made up her debut LP Forever Your Girl. The odds that a third single would top the charts would normally be considered slim, but “Straight Up” had the benefit of being in the right place at the right time, coinciding with MTV's move toward racy dance videos that culminated in Club MTV. Or perhaps her seductive monotone delivery relentlessly drilled the song and singer into everyone's consciousness. After “Straight Up” became a best-selling single, so did a subsequent fourth release, “Cold Hearted” (noticeably remixed) and a fifth single, “Forever Your Girl.” Paula had became such a juggernaut that her first two singles were rereleased, something unheard of on the cusp of the 1990s. (“The Way That You Love Me” became a hit the second time.)

Spellbound only seemed to secure Paula's position. She was provoked to release a ballad, “Rush Rush,” as a first single in direct response to the questions that had arisen about her vocal ability and background as a choreographer. Spellbound had Prince written all over it, even if he only contributed one track (ironically not chosen to be a single). Between “The Promise of a New Day,” “Blowing Kisses in the Wind” and “Vibeology” Paula Abdul almost became the perfect embodiment of a Prince protege, more than almost anyone on the roster of Paisley Park Records.

The musical topography had changed by the time Head Over Heels was completed. “My Love Is For Real” could have redefined her in spite of this; the arrangement sounded as though John Barry had it crafted to her whims. The song is badly represented on Greatest Hits by its inferior “R&B Remix,” which blunted the edge of the original until none of the tension remains. “Crazy Cool,” the second Head Over Heels track released as a single, is by far Paula's best creation vocally and visually. The Matthew Ralston video for “Crazy Cool” was banned outright by MTV for suggestiveness (although it played on VH1, MuchMusic and later MTV's Beavis and Butt-Head). The notoriety didn't help, and Paula has been consigned to what is now the pool for Behind the Music. A more recent attempt to turn her career back to “wall to wall dance” hasn't materialised.

The “Megamix Medley” is out of place on a singles collection, merely taking space that would have been better spent on two missing singles (“Will You Marry Me?” from Spellbound and “Ain't Never Gonna Give You Up” from Head Over Heels). Two rarities help make the set more complete: “Bend Time Back 'Round,” from the first Beverly Hills 90210 soundtrack, and “Crazy Love” from the Japanese version of Head Over Heels.

©2001 Rodney E Griffith. All rights reserved.